Hameed, Amin impress in draw
Pakistanis 280 for 7 (Butt 57, Hameed 58, Amin 51) drew with Leicestershire 296 for 7 dec. (White 79, Smith 87, Tanvir 2-41)
Pakistan got a fair look at the four contenders drafted into the Test squad to fill the void for a couple of spots vacant in the batting order ahead of the first Test against Australia next Tuesday. A history of unreliable openers in the few years and the absence of Younis Khan at No. 3 prompted the selectors to pick extra batsmen in the 17-man squad to insure against any top-order collapse over the next seven weeks where Pakistan will take part in six Tests.
Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Azhar Ali and Umar Amin are vying for the two positions, and the last three boosted their chance with impressive scores. Farhat, who opened with Salman Butt, the third player to cross the half-century mark on Friday, was the lone disappointment on an otherwise satisfactory outing for the visitors, who finished 16 runs adrift of Leicestershire's first-innings total at Grace Road when the teams decided to abandon the match.
Butt started in a composed fashion before playing a couple of punched drives off the new ball. He combined well with Hameed, who last featured for Pakistan in the Test series in India three years ago. Back then the pair had opened in the three Tests, including a century partnership in the second innings in Delhi, raising hopes that finally a stable opening combination had been found.
Sadly, though, Hameed was lost to injury and then form issues kept him out of the team. Today, however, Butt, leading the side, took the onus upon himself and chased the Leicester bowling pack by farming the strike comfortably while dispatching the short balls with ease. He hit three successive boundaries off Duncan Masters, with the second one, a raging cut, taking him to his half-century, immediately after which he retired out at lunch.
Hameed, whose last Test was in Bangalore in 2007, played some crisp shots and picked 10 off an over from the offspinner Jigar Naik to kickstart his innings. He continued to run the ball past the ropes with ease with some neat cover drives. At the other end, Azhar Ali, a favourite of both Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi, was happy to just knock the ball around even if he scored at a very steady pace. But a worrying factor was his struggles against the fast bowlers which would definitely be a talking point when the think tank sits to choose the final XI for the Lord's Test.
There were no such worries for Umar Amin, who played some wristy drives on both sides of the wicket to race to the fastest fifty on the day - in 70 balls before retiring out. The 20-year-old has strengthened his chances after his 73 in Canterbury two weeks back.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo